Ines Henriques took a gun-to-tape victory in the inaugural 50km race walk at the IAAF World Championships in London last year in a world record of 4:05:56 and the signs are the Portuguese veteran is on course to lower that mark this season.
Competing at the Portuguese Race Walking Championships in Porto de Mos on Sunday (7), Henriques participated in the 35km race walk to gauge her preparations ahead of a prospective record attempt later in the season.
Henriques was aiming to cover the distance in 2:48 which would represent world record pace for the full distance but the 37-year-old finished comfortably inside this prognosis, crossing the finish-line in 2:45:51 - and with plenty in reserve. When Henriques set the world record in London last August, her intermediate 35km split was 2:50:52.
“I had to be calm and not to push it, but I always felt very, very good. I'm looking forward to getting closer to the four hour-mark,” Henriques told the Record after the competition. “I'm very pleased to be able to compete in the European Championship to fight for the title of champion but first I have the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships in Taicang.”
Henriques has already competed in four editions of the European Championships with her best result being an eighth-place finish in the 20km race walk in Barcelona 2010 but she will arrive in Berlin not only as the favourite to claim gold in the inaugural staging of the 50km race walk but perhaps with the record books on her mind as well.
“My coach Jorge Miguel told me that there are still 15 more kilometres to go, and it's true, but I felt very, very good. I did the last five kilometres at quite a fast pace so I think I can still improve my world 50km walk record,” she said.
Henriques outlined last year how the domestic championships was an important event ahead of her two planned outings over the 50km walk later this season but she revealed to reporters after the event that she had extra motivation to deliver a good performance on Sunday.
"I wanted to make an excellent mark and a good race to dedicate to Jorge Miguel’s family because his niece died last Friday and I know that they are going through a difficult time. I want to dedicate this national record to Sofia and the family."